Who Will Pay?
By Mark Kalaygian
May 7, 2013

Probably every pet retailer’s fondest childhood memories include regular visits to the neighborhood pet store, where they had a chance to press their noses up against the glass of exotic animal displays or pet cute, fuzzy puppies on display for sale. Was it entertaining? Certainly. Was it educational? Probably. Did it always result in a sale for the pet store? Not likely.


However, whether or not the register rings every time a family ambles through a pet store’s menagerie on a Saturday afternoon, each of these experiences is potentially breeding a new generation of pet owners, and thus customers for that pet store.

 

Unfortunately, in today’s pet retail world, live animal sellers are an endangered species, with many store opting to eschew the many challenges of selling living, breathing pets and focusing instead on simply selling food and supplies. But what about those retailers who still embrace the old-school model of selling pets and supplies side by side? Surely, they are still reaping the rewards of the grand theater that comes from housing animals on-premises. Well, that doesn’t necessarily seem to be the case for Pet Kingdom in Fort Myers, Fla.

 

While Pet Kingdom is still apparently attracting families in droves to its live animal displays, the retailer has become frustrated with the rate at which these window shoppers are being converted into paying customers. As a result, according to published reports, Pet Kingdom is now charging visitors 16 and older an admission fee of $2 at the door for the pleasure of walking its aisles on weekends. The fee does not apply to shoppers carrying the retailer’s customer loyalty card and is refunded if a purchase is made.

 

Several attempts by Pet Business to contact the owners of Pet Kingdom for more information were unsuccessful, but I can’t imagine what they could say that would make me think this type of admission fee is a good idea. Such a strategy is sure to turn off not only window shoppers but also many potential loyal customers. And if too many of would-be customers are turned off by the admission fee, who will ultimately pay? I suspect that it will be Pet Kingdom.